This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Tue, Jun 7, 2011
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
By Doug Stokes It’s a long-held tradition that journalists never get to write their own article titles, broken here of course, because I want to indicate that this review machine is both prosaic AND positive in the best sense of the words. This Lancer is the answer to the question that asks, “What kind of a four-door mid-compact car can I get for 16-17 thousand dollars that provides solid transportation, good fuel mileage (the federal window sticker says: 24/33, we get 27.2 miles per gallon over a 284-mile test week) and is covered with a 10 year/100,000-mile warranty?” Here’s the 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer ES, a machine that is squarely aimed at secure, safe, family transport. If you want exciting, exotic, unpredictable (in terms of reliability/service) you can still buy a Lotus Exige for 4 or 5 times the money. On the other hand, and particularly in these days, and what with the end of the world scheduled and re-scheduled, this Mitsubishi makes some sense.
And, as if to make the above point even more clearly, this car came into our hands outfitted with a 5-speed standard transmission. Of course a manual transmission in anything other than a Mazda Miata these days is definitely anything but standard. So, for our week in the ES, we stirred the cogs in what seemed like a throwback, an authentic shift-for-yourself-sailor gearbox. It only happens very rarely, but remembering what that far left pedal does, and getting in a bit of heel and toe (in this case side and side of one’s foot) on downshifts was worth having to relearn the starting drill that not only requires the brakes to be engaged, but the clutch to be depressed as well. Whenever the (all-wise, all-knowing) management at LA Car schedules me into a stick shift, I always try to gauge my driving smoothness quotient by my passengers’ lack of gasps and pointed throat-clearings. Everyone really should know how to drive a three-pedal car, and I’m available for the next two weeks on Wednesdays and weekends for personal training in your machine.
Up in front of that five-speed is a nice four-cylinder, two-liter engine that makes 148 horsepower and pulls with 146 pounds of torque. Because of that balanced output, I never felt at all underpowered or out-gunned while driving, and holding ‘er in gear and taking this rev-happy mill clear up to the 6,500 RPM red line got this four-door moving right along quite nicely thankyouverymuch. Of course for just at double our test ES price ($33,995) you can have your Lancer in EVO (Evolution) trim (ask your brother-in-law), a peppy performance package that has double the horsepower and every aero-appendage available this side of a Force India Formula 1 car. What the above means to you is that the basic underpinnings of the Lancer are plenty tough (and a good place to start, if you want to do a little freelance Evo-izing on your own.) Oh yes (and not that it is all that highly-expected or anticipated for a car in this category) in truth, the Lancer handles pretty darn cleanly. It’s that this car just seems never to invite or encourage any sort of spirited/sporty driving. If YOU ask to do something a bit on the edgy side it responds well but then sort of reverts back to being a neutral party in the process.
Almost the unseen any more were a set of steel wheels and wheel covers (aka: big hubcaps). They went along with the manual transmission and, in a sort of a left-handed good thing, this seeming omission actually gives an owner the opportunity to do a little customizing of an otherwise standard-issue automobile. A quick look through any car-buff book will reveal endless cool combinations of rubber and road wheels. Just don’t do “Dub”, Please. Again, “standard” is a honestly good word here: air-conditioning, power steering, auto-off halogen headlights, active stability control, traction control, an anti-theft alarm system (with engine immobilizer), anti-lock brakes, an AM/FM/CD/MP3 player with 4 speakers, are all part of the $16,395 MSRP (and the only add-on you’re looking at $760 in delivery charges). Basic transportation, and then some! This is the Plain John of a very popular model for Mitsubishi, although I never felt personally deprived during my week in this one. In fact its large trunk and low lift-over worked well for a trip to the “$500 Dollar Store” (aka: Costco) and the clean dash layout, and workable seats (manual like the gearbox) all teamed up to make the word “practical” pop up in this sentence and not be meant as slam, slur, or put-down.
Ok, the styling … of course there’s the prerequisite deep-drop front end with the radiator opening going almost all the way to the bellypan, looking for all the world like there should be a big honkin’ intercooler hanging down there in the opening (and there really is one in some of the higher-zoot Mitsus.) Here’s another one of those words: contemporary. Nothing shocking, nothing standout, but (I’m going to say it, and the LA Car editor is likely to cut it) sometimes that’s precisely what you want in a family vehicle. One more time here … all of the above indications that this Mitsubishi is some sort of a road rocket is all right, this one is for the use described on the bill of fare: Economically-Priced Family Sedan. As the players on the Seinfeld program used to say about a totally different thing: “…Not that there’s anything wrong with that.” For more information about Mitsubishi products, go to mitsubishicars.com
SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer ES Price: $16,395, base $16,395, as tested EPA fuel economy rating (miles per gallon): 24 city/33 highway Engine: 2.0 liter dual overhead cam I-4 with 16 valves and variable valve timing Horsepower: 148 hp @ 6000 rpm Torque: 146 pound-feet @ 4200 rpm Transmission 5-speed manual (continuously variable automatic available) Steering: Power-assisted rack and pinion Drive configuration: Front-wheel drive Suspension: Four-wheel independent, with front MacPherson struts and stabilizer bar and rear multi-link suspension Brakes: Power-assisted front disc and rear drum with ABS and electronic brake force distribution Wheels and tires: 16-inch steel wheels (10-spoke alloy wheels are optional) and P205/60R16 all season tires Dimensions Width: 69.4 in. Height: 58.7 in. Length: 180.0 in. Curb weight: 2922 lbs.